Dr Caroline Lucas on the BBC's Westminster Hour on Sunday 10th February 2008
What I am deeply suspicious about is a government policy that seems to have been just brought out of a bag. Basically, nobody seems to know exactly where these towns are being planned. I think they do risk being a pretty high profile gimmick which deflects attention from the much bigger job of actually retro-fitting our existing housing stock - 25 million existing homes that desperately need insulation, desperately need energy efficiency.
We have some concerns about the figure ( i.e. of Gordon Brown's stated policy of building "three million new homes") It does seem extremely high and what we should like to see as the first priority is being bringing existing housing stock into proper use. There are a lot of empty properties out there that need to be brought up to use. But of course we do need more housing. What we want to make sure is that the housing is where people need it.
On "target population for the UK"
The motion asks our policy groups to go away and to think about the issue of population and to look at it again particularly in the context of climate change.
I am proud that our party actually is prepared to deal with some of the admittedly very difficult and controversial problems. I think for the environmental movement more broadly to ignore population is a gross misreading of the problems we face. It doesn't mean telling people how many children to have. It means having an active debate in Europe.
It means, for example, challenging governments elsewhere who are giving incentives to women to have more children, it means making available more birth control for the hundreds of thousands of women in the South who are desperately crying out for right to be able to control their own fertility so what we are talking about - and let me just underline this ten times because I know how things get distorted - we are not talking about coercive policies we are talking about a proper debate and we are talking about not giveing incentives as some European countries now are for chiuldren to have more children. When we have finished the debate I shall be delighted to come back and tell you what our proposals are going to be.
On "gas emissions from sheep and cattle"
Reducing livestock farming has to be a realistic prospect. The FAO says that around 18% of total greenhouse emissions come from livestock - not just from methane and nitrous oxide from the digestion and manure of the animals but also when you are looking at deforestation, when you are looking at fertilisers and so forth, that whole livestock cycle is deeply carbon intensive.
Some people have challenged whether it is as much as 18% - if it is that much it would be equal to the global transport emissions. Well when you think about the amount of focus in policy terms that global transport gets, then it does seem very odd that agriculture so far has managed to keep out of the limelight.
It is right that we consider the huge concentration we have now on livestock - if you look at the figures as well it says that livestock production is going to double in a very short time - so I think again it is right to put this on the agenda to be able to give out a message. To say, for example, that when people are thinking about ways that they themselves can make a contribution to climate change, as well as perhaps shifting away from their gas guzzler, they could also vastly reduce the amount of meat that they eat. That would make a big difference. As far as human diets are concerned I think it is going to be a win-win because we know there are many health issues that are associated with people eating too much meat - it's part of an ongoing campaign.
Many of the issues we fought ten years ago to get onto the agenda and now at the top of the agenda so I don't have any concern about our ability to do that (i.e. convince people).
It means big changes to our farming. What we have to ensure is that farmers don't lose out. What I'd like to see them getting is better returns for higher quality produce. It keys into people's concerns about animal welfare. When you see the one pound or two pound chicken on our shelves there is a great deal of concern about the welfarer conditions that the animals went through to end up being so cheap - so I think there is an agenda here where we can eat less meat - but eat better quality meat, and keep our farmers on the land as well.