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YORKSHIRE & THE HUMBER'S 'GREENEST MEP'

In an independent analysis carried out by Friends of the Earth in 2004, Diana Wallis was judged to be the region's 'greenest MEP' scoring a full 100 per cent in an analysis based on voting records on key environmental votes over the previous four years.

Diana says: "As well as the usual committee work all MEPs are expected to sit on one of the European Parliament's delegations. According to the official blurb, these delegations maintain relations and exchange information with parliaments in non-EU countries. When I was first elected to the parliament in 1999 I was invited to sit on the delegation which looks after relations with the EU's three near-neighbours in Western Europe who are non-members: Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. In 2001 I became President of that delegation. In turn this has meant that I have represented the Parliament on several other bodies, most notably on the Standing Committee of Arctic Parliamentarians. Through my work on these bodies, I have visited the Arctic several times over the years and have seen at first hand the devastation which global warming is already causing this fragile landscape and its peoples.

"As a result I wanted to make climate change a key aspect of my term over the next five years. Last autumn I hosted a meeting in the European Parliament which heard from Dr. Bob Corell, a leading Arctic climate change expert who chaired the Arctic Climate Assessment, and Lara Hansen of WWF, both of whom have been featured in the British media over the past year. I have been at pains to make the point that this is not something specific to somewhere far away; flooding, coastal erosion, poor harvest weather and declining fish population are just some of the impacts in Yorkshire and the Humber.

"Perhaps most importantly we are beginning to see some significant shifts amongst American opinion and it is this that I see being most important to get some real movement on climate change amongst American politicians. This is where the Standing Committee of Arctic Parliamentarians is particularly useful because it brings together American parliamentarians together with colleagues from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Canada and Russia. (www.arcticparl.org)

"I work closely with a Norway-based environmental campaigning group called Bellona and I have hosted hearings with them in the Parliament on subjects ranging from environmental pollution in the Barents Sea to the contamination caused by the Russian Nuclear industry. Most recently, in March 2006, we jointly hosted a hearing in the European Parliament on the topic of carbon capture and storage with input from industry, environmentalists, scientists and politicians. A summary of teh hearing including details of the presentations made can be found on the Bellona website: www.bellona.no/en/energy/42337.html Carbon capture and storage I see as being one of the hot topics over the coming years and I am very interested in getting feedback from different sources. I will post an article I did on the subject here shortly.

"I do not sit on the Environment Committee in the Parliament but the Lib Dems are well represented by our MEP for North West England Chris Davies. However, much environmental legislation does impinge on the work of the other committees, so I do follow this work closely. For example, the European Commission proposed a single system to gather hazard information, assess risks, classify, label, and restrict the marketing and use of individual chemicals and mixtures across a range of household products. This is known as the REACH system and I brought a group of MEPs from several countries over to Yorkshire in 2005 as part of a fact-finding trip including a visit to BP at Saltend.

"Then there are things I try and I do at a personal level. Every flight I take I know contributes to climate change because obviously, when burned, aviation fuel emits greenhouse gases. For those of us MEPs in the north, having to fly to Brussels up until recently has been pretty much unavoidable.

"So what to do? For over a year now I have beeen travelling to Brussels by train rather than flying from Leeds/Bradford airport."

"I used last year's Green Week to formally announce that I was signing up to this way of personally 'balancing' CO2 emissions when travelling by air is unavoidable. I do this by 'offsetting' my carbon emissions. This is a small contribution in the overall scheme of things, but if more and more people take responsibility for the impact they have individually on the environment then we can start to turn things around. I am very interested in the issue of personal carbon allowances which I think needs to get wider debate.

"Again on a personal level we planted three trees in our garden over the summer and we are looking to install solar panels on the roof of my house over the next few months, although this is proving to be more problematic than I first thought.

"There are other things I do a personal level. For example, I decline plastic carrier bags in stores. In fact I would like to see them pretty much disappear altogether. It is estimated that in Yorkshire & the Humber region alone about one billion plastic bags are distributed every year and for that reason I want a tax on them.

Campaigning for a plastic bag tax

"A small tax introduced in Ireland in 2002 has been a huge success, encouraging people to reuse bags without creating waste. Other countries are now following suit. The money raised could be used specifically to pay for environmental and recycling projects.

"Plastic bags litter the environment, pollute our seas and cause the death of birds and other animals as a result.

"It is time real action was taken to clear the plastic bag mountain and in my view the starting point should be a small charge on plastic bags. In 2003 I launched a campaign in Leeds to tax the plastic bag mountain and I have taken my campaign right across the region from Scarborough to Wakefield. It is interesting to see that a lot of retailers are taking note of consumer complaints either by introducing a charge on the plastic bags they issue or providing what they call degradable bags. There is a lot of work still to be done."