Cllr Sally Longford’s Speech at January Full Council on Carbon Neutrality

Thank you Lord Mayor

In January 2019 I made the pledge that the City of Nottingham would be carbon neutral by 2028. This was an ambitious pledge, which then transferred into our Manifesto and now is part of the Council Plan. The motion I brought to Full Council was passed unanimously, and I am hoping that today’s actions will also be welcomed across the political spectrum.

I am taking this opportunity to make the formal declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency, something which I was unable to do last year, but seems ever more important in the light of recent events.

The realisation of the seriousness of our situation surely cannot have been missed by even the most sceptical citizen. Around the world there are shocking events, which, taken individually might not be an indication of climate change, but when one seems to come around every corner the connection becomes clear.

Since my motion last year we have had:

  • Probably the 2nd hottest year on record
  • Summer heatwaves in Europe, smashing temperature records
  • Flooding around the world, including the UK and recently Indonesia,
  • Drought in Zambia and eastern Africa, parts of Australia, and South America – Santiago the Capital of Chile received only 25% of its normal rainfall last year.
  • Wildfires in Siberia and Alaska as well as terrible devastation in South America and more recently in Australia.
  • Extremely powerful cyclones in Japan, the Caribbean and east Africa.
  • Shrinking glaciers and ice caps in the Alps, Greenland, Antarctica and the Himalayas
  • Coral reefs, some of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems on the planet are suffering repeated bleaching events due to rising sea temperatures and are genuinely threatened.

None of this is good news, heatwaves, floods, cyclones and wildfires all directly threaten people’s lives and the ecosystems on which they depend. Shrinking glaciers and ice caps threaten coastlines around the world with inundation and reduce flow of water downstream, threatening drought to people dependent on river flows for agriculture and their water supply.

Around the world the ability of people to feed their families is affected by all these devastating events, and without healthy natural environments their long term future is threatened, creating a growing number of environmental refugees.

Here in Nottingham we are in a relatively safe place, we mostly have decent quality of housing, are comparatively well served by public services and the UK is not particularly vulnerable to the most devastating hazards, however, our citizens will gradually notice the impacts of changes in the environment. We will be increasingly affected by the changes both here and around the world, our young people are aware of the growing risk and are rightly demanding we take action.

Although we have not been hit by devastating disasters I’m sure members have noticed changes we are experiencing, last year in July, we experienced a new record temperature for the city of 36 degrees. I reckon we’ve only had one decent frost this winter, and we’ve had more heavy rainfall, and, in a city with significant rivers such as the Day Brook, the Leen and the Trent the risk of fluvial flooding is heightened. Anyone living at the bottom of a slope, of which there are many in the city, is also vulnerable to flooding from surface run-off as water rushes down hardened surfaces under gravity. Already, we as a city, are having to take increasing action to protect our citizens, which is why I had the pledge to protect a further 1,000 homes from flooding included in our manifesto, and now the Council plan.

More vulnerable citizens, young and old, and with existing health conditions are the ones who will be most severely impacted, and it is vital that we do not allow climate change to worsen increasing inequalities.

As a Council, one of our most fundamental duties is to protect our citizens from emergency situations, and we have a duty to take a lead in reducing emissions to protect future generations from the worst potential impacts of climate change.

There is also our wider responsibility as a Core City, recognised for its excellent record on climate change to lead on carbon neutrality in the country.

Do any of us want to live in a world where there are no polar bears, koalas, snow leopards and coral reefs? Obviously not, but that is what is staring us in the face, a real possibility that, within our lifetimes polar bears will starve to death because of the loss of sea ice, koalas will not survive because of destruction of their forest habitat and in particular the eucalyptus trees on which they depend, snow leopards are adapted to hunt in the high mountain areas of central Asia where the quantity of snow is depleting rapidly and coral reefs may well be bleached out of existence by warming seas.

Do we want to turn on the news and be bombarded every day with grim reports of more death and destruction by extreme weather events? Do we want people to be increasingly driven from their homes becoming environmental refugees because of sea level rise? Of course not.

More particularly, do we want mortality rates of our more vulnerable citizens to rise because of the impacts of heat waves in the summer, the increased threat of serious flood events in the city and the cost of food rising as the vegetable growing regions of the world, including Lincolnshire are inundated by rising sea levels? No we do not!

We want future generations to have a good quality of life, and, in order to help make that happen we need to join with all the other regions, cities, towns and parishes around the world who have made the commitment to make changes now in order to preserve our future.

We have made a good start. As the Charter before Council outlines, we have made significant progress in cutting carbon emissions already, from the Nottingham Climate Change Declaration, made in 2000. So far our emissions are down by an impressive 41% since 2005.

Various key actions have helped our progress towards this reduction, the use of our EnviroEnergy District Heating scheme, to heat 5,000 homes and businesses, a wide range of energy saving measures in homes, including large scale retro-fitting of Council Housing, for example in Clifton and Lenton Abbey, the establishment of Robin Hood Energy which now supplies green electricity to city residents and the Workplace Parking Levy, which enabled us to provide high quality public transport improvements to encourage people to get out of their cars and get on the tram or our electric buses.

These schemes have benefitted the city, not just in terms of carbon reduction, but by reducing air pollution, so that we now have the cleanest air of any UK city, reducing fuel poverty among our most vulnerable citizens and enhancing quality of life.

Since my motion last year we have continued to make progress for example:

  • Converting more of our fleet, so that by the end of this year 30% will be EV, saving 2,500 tonnes of Co2 in their lifetime,
  •  Installed more solar panels equivalent to 866 tonnes of CO2 during the year,
  • Improved cycle routes around Clifton and the Meadows,

We have worked with partners in One Nottingham Green Partnership to develop the Carbon Neutral Charter and received support from many people and organisations. On Friday when I met with local members of Extinction Rebellion they congratulated the Council on the quality of analysis and vision of the Charter. It is a very high quality document which clearly sets out the challenges we face and the path we need to take to achieve our ambitious goals. At the core of this Charter is the expectation that this carbon reduction will take place in an environment which will deliver further benefits to our citizens.

  • Continuing to improve air quality, reducing health problems and improving quality of life,
  • Having a more sustainable built environment, enabling sustainable communities.
  • Creating jobs in the green economy, our own “green industrial revolution”,
  • And creating a more safe and attractive city, with good access to natural environments improving wellbeing and health.

Now we are launching consultation on our Draft Action Plan, which is ambitious and far reaching.  It is a plan for today, with understanding of today’s technologies and opportunities, it is the first plan, and will need to be reviewed regularly in order to maximise new opportunities and ensure we are on the right track.

We need to talk to everyone. We need to hear what people from every part of the city have to say about this vital issue, all generations, from different backgrounds. We hope that in the next few months everyone will get to have their say. Whether they live, work or study in the city, we want everyone to get on board and help us achieve this challenging target.

The Council cannot do this alone, everyone will need to play their part, even in the smallest way. Can we ask and support all our citizens to take simple and cheap actions?

  • Switch to a renewable energy tariff,
  • Reduce the quantity of meat and dairy they consume,
  • Reduce car use, even if it’s just a couple of days a week,
  • Plant a tree if they have the space in their garden,
  • Increase their recycling and do it right!

Employers can easily help:

  • By allowing staff to work from home,
  • Gradually converting their essential vehicles to electric,
  • Explore the opportunities for carbon neutral deliveries and improve energy efficiency of their premises.
  • Make use of technology to video conference to reduce the amount of travel.

How can the government help?

  • Speed up the phase out of petrol and diesel vehicles and incentivise people to change from more polluting cars.
  • Provide funding for home owners to invest in insulation,
  • Change planning regulations to ensure high level energy efficiency in new buildings,
  • Invest in the electricity grid to enable new developments to access renewable energy, including projects like our Vehicle to Grid.

Over the coming years, more radical change will be needed, and the Council must lead the City on that more difficult path, among other things we will need to

  • support our citizens to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and encourage people in communities to get involved,
  • ensure that the benefits of new opportunities make a difference to the people we serve,
  • monitor progress towards the goal,
  • continue to seek funding from every available source to help deliver the huge scale of retro-fitting of poorly insulated homes and to extend our sustainable transport offer,
  • collaborate with partner organisations, in the public, private and voluntary sectors to learn from them and ensure we are all pulling together to reduce blockages to progress,
  • And be adaptable, so that our plans can change according to developments in technology, politically and in society.

As Councillors I hope we can speak as one on this vital issue, that we can lead our communities towards this cleaner, greener, healthier city and maintain our number one position nationally, while making a small but important contribution to global action.

Cllr Sally Longford.