Success for Greens as climate and biodiversity emergency declared in Brighton and Hove

City Council becomes latest to commit to action on climate change and species extinction

Green Councillor Ollie Sykes and Extinction Rebellion campaigners
Copyright  Danny Fitzpatrick http://www.dfphotography.co.uk danny@dfphotography.co.uk


Brighton and Hove City Council has become the latest council to declare a state of climate emergency following a call from the Greens. 

Green plans for council action on climate change and protection of the natural environment were agreed by all parties at a meeting of Full Council yesterday (Thursday 13th December). The Green proposals call on the city council to go ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030. Greens also want to see the council put in place measures to boost the protection of species, habitats and ecosystems to avert worsening climate disaster.

Recent reports from the United Nations have revealed that there are just 12 years left to limit global warming and that a mass extinction of species is now underway.

Following the success of the Green proposals, the city council will now lobby the Government to invest more resources in climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and also on the protection of the natural environment.

The emergency declaration follows similar pledges secured by Greens on Bristol Council, London Assembly, Stroud Council and others.

Members of the Brighton branch of global climate movement ‘Extinction Rebellion’ gathered outside Hove Town Hall in support of the Green call for action. 

Greens and Extinction Rebellion campaigners outside Hove Town Hall. Copyright Danny Fitzpatrick http://www.dfphotography.co.uk

While welcoming the support received from all parties on the council, Greens are now urging all parties to commit to taking ‘urgent, strong and determined’ action when the proposals are reviewed at policy committees next year.


Councillor Sykes, who put forward the call to council, commented:

“There’s nothing more urgent for this and future generations than the fight to slow climate change and protect our natural environment. I’m so pleased that this Green proposal passed unanimously at Council yesterday. Now let’s get more local authorities on board and start acting on our promises.”


Councillor Greenbaum, who seconded the notice of motion, added:

“Global climate talks are stalling under the influence of climate deniers such as Trump. At home the Conservative Government is blocking the progress of renewable energy while simultaneously pushing through legislation to make fracking easier, and there is no real plan to protect our natural assets or improve air quality. Meanwhile, our climate is changing more rapidly than we feared, and the impacts are catastrophic as we have seen from the recent California wildfires. And humankind’s destruction of natural habitats has destroyed 83% of all mammals and half of plants.  

“The situation is dire and requires radical and immediate action, but with no leadership, hope or commitment coming from the global or national stage it is clear that the solutions will have be found at a local level – as we have seen in Bristol, Stroud, London and now Brighton – and grassroots movements such as Extinction Rebellion. We simply can’t sit back without trying to stop this disaster unfolding further.”

The Green Group proposals are available to read here: http://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00008150/AI00070372/$Item5501GrnGrpClimateChange.docA.ps.pdf




The environment isn’t just another service to cut

By CLLR LOUISA GREENBAUM

 

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Brighton & Lewes Downs became a UNESCO Biosphere Region in 2014, now threatened by planned cuts.

The recent round of floods across the country was another in a series of wake-up calls on climate change.  Already we are seeing the impacts of the 1C rise in global temperatures so far, as freak rainfall events become more common and the scale of flooding increases.  It is a stark reminder of the impending threat of massive and catastrophic climate change over the next few decades.

The floods are an example of how the government’s ideological austerity programme has brought misery and destruction to the country.  In the 2010 spending review, the coalition government slashed flood defence spending by over £100m in a single year, and despite one-off high-profile cash boosts, this trend has continued.  The Environment Agency’s funding for maintaining flood assets has fallen by 14% in response to cuts. Floods in 2015 alone cost the economy £5.8 billion and displaced thousands of people.  Cutting spending on flood protection is counter-productive and hugely damaging to at-risk communities.

Investment in flood protection is just a sticking plaster for climate change, and one that will become increasingly expensive as environmental damage outstrips our capacity to mitigate it.  What is needed is a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackling the causes of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It requires a shift in our way of life towards a greener economy.  Thankfully, the international community have agreed to limit climate change to less than 2%.  What needs to happen now is to transform those lofty goals into meaningful action.

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Views through the spectacular Devil’s Dyke – a precious green space for Brighton & Hove

At the national level, the last 6 months have revealed the government’s intention to cut back on environmental protection measures.  In the latest spending review we saw cuts to subsidies for energy efficiency, renewable heating technology and home insulation, which comes on top of increases in the cost of renewable energy.  We also saw cuts to the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Defra of 22% and 15% respectively.  This follows the 2010-15 coalition government which according to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee presided over disastrous declines in air quality, biodiversity and flood protection.  For central government, environmental protection is just another pocket of national spending to slash and burn.

Locally, in Brighton and Hove it is up to the Labour-led City Council to implement these Tory cuts.  A role they seem to have taken up with no small amount of gusto, despite strong Green resistance.  So far, the Labour Council has switched energy supplies away from renewable sources, refused to divest pension funds from fossil fuels and expressed unwavering support for expansion of air travel at Gatwick.  Future plans in the 2016/17 budget include cuts to recycling budgets, sustainability teams and park rangers.  Sadly, Labour seem to take the view that the environment is just another service to cut, a middle-class luxury that the city cannot afford in these hard times.

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Floods in Brighton in 2015

When the consequences of inaction are the loss of homes, droughts, sea-level rise and rising food costs, investment in the environment is not a luxury.  It is massively short-sighted to think we can wait until we are nearly underwater, when it will be too late to act.  It is imperative and urgent that we act now.  The Tory Government and Labour Council have it all backwards.  The environment cannot be seen as just another service we cannot afford.  With such high-stakes, the reality is we cannot afford NOT to act.

Greens are calling for a halt to austerity.  It poses an immense risk to this city, this country, this planet.  We must resist the cuts and demand a greener world.  As families in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire try to pick up the pieces now the media spotlight is gone, they can tell you what climate change costs.  If we don’t act soon, we will all be telling a similar story.