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HerbEppel's picture

Bryony Worthington, environmentalist to the House of Lords

New Labour peer Bryony Worthington is a breath of fresh air
Appointment of environmentalist bolsters House of Lords' green credentials

Bryony Worthington, green campaigner, has been appointed to the House of Lords. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
The House of Lords became a far greener and better place today with the appointment of the climate change policy expert and campaigner Bryony Worthington as a Labour peer. Most importantly, she's one of the smartest thinkers on how best to cut greenhouse gas emissions you are ever likely to meet. The fact she is a woman and one of the youngest peers in the house is also a major plus.

"I am very flattered and very excited," she told me this morning. First on her agenda will be the energy market reform planned by the coalition government, "unfinished business" from the Climate Change Act which she was instrumental in writing, such as setting stronger carbon caps in the UK, and how to boost investment in green projects.

Worthington believes the Lords serves a valuable role but needs reform. "It provides respite from the madness of the political fighting in the lower house. It has time to think and should be full of experts," she said. "But its reputation is not good. It needs to be more representative of society at large. I understand why the pomp and ceremony is there, but it is a distraction – it needs to be more modern and less medieval."

One obvious reform is a way for peers to retire, she says, with one in three peers over 75 and one in 10 never turning up at all. I ask her if she'll be seeking a fake fur ermine collar: "Surely they recycle them, no?" she replies.

Worthington is currently director of the carbon trading thinktank and campaign group Sandbag, which she founded, as well as a board member of the 10:10 campaign. Prior to this she was a policy adviser to Scottish and Southern Electricity and its CEO Ian Marchant. It is not a coincidence that SSE is the most enlightened on green issues of the big six power utilities. While at SSE, she was seconded to government to take part in writing the climate change bill, which is now law and binds the UK to cutting its carbon emissions. The idea of national carbon budgets, now in law, was hers. Her earlier career was as an environmental campaigner, heading Friends of the Earth's climate change campaign. She studied English literature: "very useful," she jokes.

She has yet to meet the officer who helps new peers choose a location for their title and laughs politely at my suggestion that she should be Baroness Worthington of Kingsnorth. Any better suggestions for her?