Will Rio deliver survival of the planet?
I have a concern that the forthcoming Rio summit 20 years on from the first Rio agreement on climate change will duck the crucial issues facing the planet.
My commitments as Chair of the International Development Committee preclude me from taking part in the Global Legislators’ Dialogue of which I am a member and vice president.
Nevertheless I would echo the views of Danish Environment Minister, Ida Auken, that unless we make a radical shift towards more sustainable economics we will, as she put it, run out of planet. Put another way, for the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and other emerging economies) to achieve standards of living comparable to the developed world would require the resources of two and a half earths.
The practical consequences are, economically, environmentally and politically disastrous. Growth ambitions will force up the price of resources and commodities to unaffordable levels. Carbon and other emissions will accelerate climate change and pollution to critical levels – causing humanitarian disasters on an unprecedented scale. Shortages could lead to violence and conflict. Old ideas of growth need to be rethought, just as radically as old fashioned tax and spend politics.
The downside is potentially terrifying and the timescale is short. Nevertheless, meeting the challenges creates opportunities. New renewable technologies will require investment and could create millions of jobs.
As individuals we will need to re-evaluate our priorities - restricting our hunger for new gadgets, building in recycling to the manufacturing process and designing out premature obsolescence.
I believe young people understand this particularly well. The question is whether they will look to a different, lower carbon lifestyle than their parents, and what effect that will have on the direction of the global economy.
Olympic torch brings out North East crowds
Parliamentary business precluded me from being in Aberdeen for the Olympic torch event or to see the torch set off from Dyce in the constituency. However, I was delighted to be attend the event at Balmoral which saw the handover of the torch in front of the castle.
Local schools and communities were well represented at what was a relaxed and colourful event. In addition, the traditional entertainment provided beforehand included a number of talented musicians from the Gordon constituency, including singers, an accordionist and fiddlers.
The rules of the International Olympic Committee require the venue for the games to be a city – so 2012 is the London Olympics. Nevertheless, the organisers have been determined to involve the whole country, hence the passage of the torch the length and breadth of the UK.
In addition, some of the Olympic events are taking place in Scotland.
Like many people, I put in for Olympic tickets. I was delighted that the only ones I did secure were for the final of the 400 metres individual medley swimming event and am very much hoping to see Hannah Miley, whose fortunes I have followed for years, secure Olympic success.
It is thanks to Hannah’s inspiration that I started the successful campaign for an Olympic pool in the North East. Construction is now well under way and it will be completed well in advance of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.
Leveson mediafest needs to deliver changes
The Leveson enquiry like so many of these kind of initiatives is turning into a long running monster. The irony is that, designed as it was, to investigate phone hacking and other skulduggery by the media, it has turned into a mediafest.
Although, of course, it has led to the arrest of several high profile media players, it has been pretty uncomfortable for leading politicians, notably the Prime Minister, but also his predecessors whose relationship with the Murdoch empire appears to have been equally incestuous.
Alex Salmond seems to have sidestepped the questions about his cosy relationship with Rupert Murdoch with a diversionary tactic about alleging (on the basis of circumstantial evidence at best) that the Observer accessed his bank account.
Of course, politicians and the media have always interacted and there is nothing new about the relationship of manipulation by both sides. What has made it worse is that the methods used by the media have, partly thanks to technology and partly to a lowering of standards, become more intrusive to a degree that is criminal and beyond justification.
The relationship between the media and the police has also been spotlighted to the detriment of integrity by both parties.
Lord Justice Leveson will, no doubt, be making strong recommendations in due course. He needs to acknowledge that the concentration of ownership of the media has been a factor in this deterioration of standards – something I have long highlighted.
Apart from being necessary for competition, plural media ownership reduces the power of any one organisation and the likelihood of politicians being bullied.
The further question arises is in the risks of allowing foreign ownership of key sections of our media – especially when that ownership shows itself hostile to our national interests and our foreign policy agenda. Murdoch would be disqualified on all counts.
Birthday honour brings surprise and delight
It was a huge surprise and a privilege to be awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. I have been inundated with texts, Tweets, Facebook comments and phone calls and very much appreciate all the kind comments I have received.
It is pleasing to be honoured in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, my 30th year in Parliament and the 50th anniversary of the year I joined the Liberal Party. The citation is for public and political service and I owe a great deal to the people of Gordon who have elected me to Parliament in seven elections.
I also hope it reflects my work for the deaf community and international development and that it may help focus attention on these key sectors.