By Dave Wilson / EnvironmentLatest News / 0 Comments

A climate emergency is upon us. That fact is not altered by the welcome decision of the City Council, last Thursday, to declare it: nothing has changed as a result of the consensual decision to recognise the seriousness of the challenge that faces the whole of humanity.

We have work to do.

I’m writing this at just before 9.00 a.m. The heat is already unpleasantly close to 30oC, something that would have been exceptional 10 years ago but has become normal. This is just one symptom of the problems we face as a result of 150 years of unconstrained industrialisation and the commercial exploitation of geology and nature. In the past 60 years or so we’ve recognised examples of this and acted on each individually: the London smogs of the 50’s; rivers killed by industrial pollution; the use of ecosystem destroying pesticides like DDT;  ozone depleting chemicals in aerosol sprays; lead in petrol … the list is endless. But we’ve failed, so far, on the big picture issue of global warming. Now, the younger generation in particular have called us to account. The party is over for industrial societies. Now it is time to clean up.

We have  work to do.

In that context, the decision of this City Council is welcome. Its commitment was strengthened considerably by five amendments put forward by Labour councillors, three of which were accepted outright:

  •  to undertake environmental impact assessments of every decision the Council takes
  •  to include housing developers in the list of those to be worked with to deliver net zero carbon activity
  •  to embed the target of reducing carbon emissions within the Corporate Plan and set annual targets which can be effectively monitored

A further two Labour proposals were referred to a new working group on climate change:

  •  to hold a citizens assembly to identify and report on priorities and actions
  • to establish in independent review body to report on progress

So far, so good. We have a solid policy which looks to the Council not only to address its own carbon emissions but to cajole, encourage, persuade and where possible enforce other organisations, commercial and public, to do the same. We have a challenging target to achieve net zero carbon by 2030, which will – if we achieve it and everyone else globally does the same – only just be in time to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change. If we don’t, then the future of humanity, as well as many other species, is under real and imminent threat.

We have work to do.

That work involves taking the principles set out in the resolution and applying them successfully to specific activities. Not least among these are house building and design, public transport, private car and lorry journeys, and energy usage and production. This is why Labour proposed a Citizens’ Assembly: because many of the decisions to be taken will impact on how we live, and will inconvenience (to put it mildly) everyone who lives here. Getting advice direct from a representative sample of people from the whole District is key to ensure that people buy into the decisions that have to be taken, while ensuring that people who live in our villages are heard as clearly as those who live in the towns and City. Labour is also acutely aware that a substantial proportion of the population voted for the Green Party in the May elections, yet is not represented at all in the Council chamber. The Council has a responsibility to make sure that their voices are heard, and that their expertise on these questions is made available.

We have work to do – but no monopoly on the wisdom of how best to do it.

It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We’re surely on that road, but we have the chance in this district, in this country, in Europe, and globally, to change the direction we’re going. It really is not optional if human life – if it continues – is to be worth living. The time for talking is over. We have work to do.

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By Councillor Alan Baldock / Environment / 0 Comments

 

After weeks of marches and protests, climate change activists and local Labour members have succeeded in convincing Canterbury Council to listen. A state of emergency has finally been declared but only after the Tory-led city councillors were dragged there, kicking and screaming. Historically, the Conservative faction has argued that they could not take the necessary lead on congestion and pollution in our seaside towns and City, because it was not their problem, passing the responsibility instead to the wider body of Kent County Council.

Canterbury city councillors previous ignored clear indications that action was desperately needed, which has led to decisions being made this month to concrete over wildlife areas in Wincheap in order to extend the Park & Ride system, and to commit £9 million of our money to a car park in the centre of Canterbury that will increase congestion and pollution. They have also taken almost two years to install just a dozen car charging points across the whole district, and have ridiculed campaigns calling for a rethink of transport in Canterbury using an Integrated Transport Hub approach, revised Park and Ride schemes for commuters and much more. It seems like the climate was not an emergency for Canterbury’s Tory-led Council, until they were told that it needed to be by local activists. The Council is now declaring a Climate Emergency proposing a Carbon Neutral Council by 2030 and, finally, starting to show some leadership.

So what has changed? Nothing less than public opinion. Think back just a few weeks to the Extinction Rebellion peaceful protest at the Council’s AGM, with their pointed comment of “Less Pomp More Action,” that evening. Extinction Rebellion have always asked us all to rise above politics and get on with the urgent job in hand. Rest assured, we will be doing that now the opportunity may well be opening up. For the ten newly-elected Labour councillors, as participants in debates, marches and campaigns to heighten awareness of the issue, our climate has always been a priority.

This Wednesday, 17 July 2019, the recommendation on Climate Change is bought forward by the Tory Group for discussion, to the Policy and Resources Committee. It pulls together the sentiments and wording of the two Climate Change Motions logged for debate at full Council on Thursday 18th July by the LibDems and Labour.

We will seek to improve the recommendations published through the Policy and Resources Committee before is put to full Council the day after. Firstly, we will aim to ensure the proposed Canterbury Climate Change Board is an independent body. As such, it will be better protected from the political changes over the next ten, perhaps even the next thirty years. Its purpose should be as a critical friend and advisor to the Council, local businesses and residents. Finally, it should measure and report the progress towards carbon neutrality by 2013 and independently publish its findings. The Labour Group hopes that the Tory leadership will see the huge boost in credibility independence this will bring in the long term.

In developing Climate Change Strategy, the Council must drive all that follows coherently in order to achieve the 2030 target. The Labour Group believe the Councillors’ Working Group needs to deliver the framework document, encompassing existing and new Policy, by the end of this year. Without a plan the urgent progress implied in a Climate Emergency is severely impacted, even neglected.

Finally, the Labour Group would like to issue a call to everyone to get involved in the Local Plan and Corporate Plan changes which are planned over the coming months. We will aim to ensure that Climate Change measures are embedded in every aspect of these guiding documents on Wednesday but there will much to do. It is vital that every new and refurbished house in Canterbury District should be Carbon Neutral as well as every part of CCC operations and every business playing their part. Wednesday will see the Labour Group doing what it can to ensure a carbon neutral future is ours finally, there is no time to lose, a Climate Emergency will be declared. Stand with us, and we can combat these dangers together.

Labour Councillor for Northgate, Alan Baldock.

 

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