A HIGHLY ranked government minister came to Taunton to lend support to the town’s MP vying to keep her seat.

Michael Gove visited on Friday, November 1, to discuss the environment while Rebecca Pow launched her election campaign.

The visit follows the announcement a General Election is set to be held on December 12.

Ms Pow gathered her supporters at the Somerset Wood, to show Mr Gove the freshly planted greenspace.

Somerset County Gazette:

VISIT: Ms Pow and Mr Gove with Alan Hall, project leader for the Somerset Wood

The pair took part in a Q&A with your County Gazette to discuss their views on the climate crisis.

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Has the Government acted with enough urgency regarding the climate emergency, do targets dating to 2050 reflect that?

RP: “The government has done more than anyone else sorting out the environment and the climate emergency.

“We were the first government to legislate for net zero, something i called for in two PMQs to the previous Prime Minister Theresa May, they took that seriously and they put it into legislation. This is all on recommendation from the climate change committee, so we are following scientific guidance on this.

“We’ve not also launched the Environment Bill, which is a ground-breaking, transformative legislation, which will completely enhance and protect the environment for future generations.

“For example we are going to be introducing a deposit return scheme, and we are going to introduce something called producer responsibility.”

MG: You always have to keep these targets under review. When we first sad we were going to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040, people thought ‘that’s outrageous, that’s far too quick a deadline’, now they are quite-rightly saying ‘actually, that’s achievable, maybe we should think about bringing it forward’, and I think as we make progress we should always keep these targets under review.

Have environmental issues taken a back seat to Brexit?

RP: “It’s been going on. I’ve been urging people to talk about it more. This has all been going on and all the stakeholder engagements, getting all the organisation together, the farmers, land owners, producers, green groups, all the different groups who have had their input on the framework of this bill.

“That’s all been going on while Brexit has been going on, really a lot has been going on.”

MG: “I don’t think so, at the same time we have been negotiating our exit from the EU, we’ve also got this landmark Environment Bill, the biggest ever measure to safeguard our environment, and at the same time we have been increasing funding for our NHS, and proposals on social care will be brought forward soon.

“I think the Government can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

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What can Taunton do to improve its environmental impact?

RP: “Taunton is already moving forward well and I was pleased to help them get that Garden Town status, and then get the vision and the guide for it, which is going to help direct us with what we do.

“For example this wood, the money has come from the houses that have been built, and that’s the right way to spend the money.

“There’s more we can do, I have started an initiative with the County Council to get the wild verges replanted with poppy seeds and cornflowers and other wild flowers. We could do that right throughout Taunton Deane and that would look great, and be great for our pollinators."

“I’d also like to see more trees on our corridors, coming in and out of Taunton, potentially cider apple trees.

“Walkways, cycleways and pedestrian areas are all part of the mix.”

MG: “Taunton is growing. It’s a wonderful place to live, it’s a beautiful part of the world. There’s new jobs because of the new nuclear reactor, and it’s also the case that there are new homes.

“To my mind the most important thing is when you have new homes, you need to make sure you have proper communities. That means green lines, planting trees in the way we are seeing here, it also means making sure people have good public transport infrasture, and appropriate investment in the NHS. These are all priorities.

“Taunton is a beautiful town, it’s the jewel in Somerset’s crown, it’s important it remains an attractive place to live and work.

Ms Pow, you once said renewable energy has to pay for itself, do you still feel this way?

RP: “Where I see Government’s role is in seed core money to kick-start renewable energy. That’s what they did with solar, and that really worked. Gradually as the cost of the panels comes down, and the cost of inputting them comes down you can start to withdraw the subsidies, Now we’ve transferred to supporting offshore winds, now we get a third of our energy from there, because that was kickstarted with seed money. That’s the way you should use the taxpayers’ money, because its not Government’s money, it's the taxpayers’ money.”

MG: “It’s often the case we provide incentives for take-up, and then once those incentives are in place, the growth of that power comes naturally.

“It’s in the same way you take stabilisers off a bicycle as children learn to ride. You can withdraw some of the subsidies as they reach a level where they can compete in the market.”