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Extinction Rebellion host climate hustings

Three of the four candidates standing for the Bury St Edmunds constituency in the General Election on December 12 attended a climate hustings tonight organised by Extinction Rebellion.

Helen Geake for the Green party, Paul Hopfensperger - Independent and Cliff Waterman for the Labour party all answered questions put to them by audience members at the hustings held at the Quaker Meeting House in St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds..

Jo Churchill standing for the Conservative party was invited by Bury St Edmunds Extinction Rebellion but declined to attend due to 'prior engagements'.

Paul Hopfensperger - Independent, Cliff Waterman - Labour and Helen Geake - Green.
Paul Hopfensperger - Independent, Cliff Waterman - Labour and Helen Geake - Green.

A list of her environmental issues voting record and a block of ice was put out in her place.

One audience member asked, 'how are you going to work with our local land owners to engage in ways of respecting the environment?'

Cliff Waterman in response said: "We are planning to repurpose all of the agricultural funds either if we're still in the EU or if we've left the EU so they're all focused on creating zero carbon and sustainable farming practices. We're not in favour of mass agricultural chemicals. We've got an extensive programme of having nature corridors, cycle ways, footpaths and so on. We want to plant two billion trees by 2050."

Mr Waterman also said he wanted 'free 5G broadband to be universal'.

In response to the agricultural question Mr Hopfensperger said: "I believe we have to start with the young generation and to start educating them about wildlife and I started doing that on the Howard Estate. We've created a wildlife area in the woods for children from the local schools.

"We need to start planting more trees, how do you convince the landowners? Probably through taxes."

Dr Geake said: "Starting off with the agricultural question, not all farmers are Tory but the ones that aren't are more quiet. Brexit is tremendously detrimental to farming."

Another audience member said, 'Say we were to solve global warming and then everything was fine how do we know you wouldn't stop enforcing these green policies so we wouldn't go back to old ways?'

Dr Geake said: "The Green Party is suggesting that we have a carbon budget, that would be set into law."

Mr Waterman said: "Supposing the climate emergency isn't actually a real thing and we have greener spaces, greener industries and fresher air, we have cleaner water that's going to be good anyway."

Mr Hopfensperger said: "We're talking about a five year parliament to address climate change. Realistically we're trying to get to zero carbon by 2050 I should be dead by then. I think it should be 2025, 2030. If you've got clean water, clean environment, lots of trees, lots of animals, why would you want to go back to the other way?"

In their closing statements, Mr Hopfensperger said: "I have always represented the people who elected me, I stood for election because I love the Bury St Edmunds constituency. I will always represent everyone and anyone who elects me.

Mr Waterman said: "This election is a once in a generation chance to make Britain the best place for everyone, and make Britain a world leader in combatting climate change. In Bury St Edmunds there is only one candidate who can beat the Conservatives. There is a choice it may be that you have to hold your nose and vote Labour so that we don't have a Conservative MP."

Dr Geake said: "The reason that these things are in other party manifestos, the only reason they know that the public want them and will vote for them is that we developed those ideas we showed that they were popular. All the Green votes at elections past have gone into making those ideas mainstream so why go for the pale imitation why not go for the bright green option. We have to do this now."

See Friday's Bury Free Press newspaper to read pitches from each of the candidates standing in the Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk constituencies.

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