I founded the APPG for Dark Skies – together with the Astronomer Royal and Lord Martin Rees – shortly after being elected to parliament in 2019. I wanted future generations to be able to see the stars and the Milky Way, something that has already become impossible in many parts of the UK due to light pollution.
Since I was a child, I have always been inspired by the stars, distant galaxies and how the vastness of space puts things into context. Growing up near the sodium glow of London, stars were a rarity until I travelled as a student in the Sahara desert. There I saw how breathtaking a truly dark sky can be.
My constituency contains the South Downs National Park, the only official “dark sky site” in southern England. Light pollution is entirely manmade and we are the first generation in the whole of human history where a majority are not able to see a clear night sky. Up to 61 per cent of people in the UK live in an area with severe light pollution, meaning they could see fewer than ten stars.
In the APPG for Dark Skies, we are not astronomers (or, as I once called them, astrologers) but we are legislators with an interest in changing the law – planning laws in particular.
Following a consultation with over 170 experts and members of the public, we have published a 10-point plan that the government could enact in order to tackle light pollution.
All of the actions would reduce our carbon footprint. Using energy to light up the sky is a clear waste of resources and often it really is as simple as flicking the switch to “off”.
You can find out if your local MP has joined the group on gostargazing.co.uk and more about the APPG at appgdarkskies.co.uk
More of nature’s law makers…
The environmentally focused APPGs forging the policies of a greener future
Net Zero APPG
Chair: Alex Sobel MP
The Net Zero APPG aims to accelerate policy change towards net zero, promoting zero carbon solutions and clean technology. It hosts regular meetings and sessions discussing a spectrum of issues relating to net zero from transport to urban planning. Last November, the group published a 10-point net zero action plan, warning that the UK is not on track to meet its goal of net zero emissions for 2050 and that urgent action to decarbonise power, transport, housing and land is required. Its chair Alex Sobel says that a “dynamic and dramatic shift in government thinking” is needed.
APPG on Sustainable Finance
Chair: Ed Davey MP
What we invest in matters. The right financial policies can help develop green industries, creating greener jobs and directing funds from fossil fuels to zero-carbon alternatives. The APPG on Sustainable Finance links industry players and practitioners in the finance sector and energy industry with academics, policy makers and parliamentarians to build political consensus for the changes required to help reach net zero. Chaired by Sir Ed Davey, the team includes Catherine Howarth, CEO of ethical investment group ShareAction, Dr Rhian Mari Thomas, CEO of the Green Finance Institute, and Polly Billington, director of UK100, a network of locally elected leaders promoting clean energy.
APPG on Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage
Chair: Alex Cunningham MP
The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a result of burning fossil fuels is causing the climate crisis. One way to mitigate this is to capture CO2 before it enters the atmosphere, transport it and store it for centuries, even millennia. This is the potential of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies. Set up in 2015 by Alex Cunningham MP, the APPG on Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage provides a forum to promote government investment in CCUS, which is gaining more traction, recently being deemed by experts as “a necessity, not an option” in the pursuit of net zero. In May of this year, a series of announcements and large investments into CCUS were released by the government.