Four years on from Bristol’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, Greens say the Labour administration’s new Climate Action Plan, released in late October, “does not have enough ‘action’”, and have laid out some proposals to help the city accelerate its progress to reducing emissions.
There are just eight years left until Bristol’s ambitious target for going carbon neutral by 2030, as set by a Green Party motion which passed unanimously in November 2018.
Bristol Council’s latest Climate Action Plan does not (and realistically, cannot) provide a roadmap for getting the entire city there. However, the council also has its own 2025 carbon neutral target, and Green Councillors say that even here, it does not clearly set out how the Council will reach its own emissions targets.
Councillor Katy Grant, Co-Shadow Cabinet member for Climate and Ecology, produced an analysis of the Climate Action plan. She said:
“This plan is a welcome, and needed, update on the previous strategy. However, in terms of allowing Bristolians to judge actions and progress in getting us to net zero, it is inadequate. The plans are limited in scope and lacking in key details – action tracking, progress towards targets, the scale of the challenge, and timeframes. Too often, the report refers to an ‘aspiration’ or future commitment instead of noting actual progress towards a target – even where it concerns the council’s own emissions. Frankly the Action Plan does not have nearly enough measurable ‘Action’ to address the Climate Emergency”
“The climate emergency requires two things: real, practical action, and honesty about how far we have to go. But four years since declaring a climate emergency, there’s been not enough significant changes in the city. The City Leap programme is extremely promising, but there needs to be a greater sense of urgency across all key emissions areas citywide.”
Greens highlighted a number of issues with the report. They noted that it:
Greens recognise that some steps have been taken such as support for community energy initiatives, the adoption of a council housing retrofit programme, and development of the City Leap joint venture which should help decarbonise heat networks and add to council house upgrades. But these have barely started.
We welcome the city being invited to join the EU 100 Climate neutral cities Mission to share experiences and learn from others.
Work towards the City’s 2030 carbon neutral target is in theory led by the One City climate strategy.
However this is described by the Council as a “a city-wide, shared vision and not owned by any single organisation”. While the idea of a city-wide collaboration between organisations is essential, the way it is currently structured does not set out specific targets or projects to be carried out by certain partners. This lack of leadership and accountability means that progress has been slow.
Councillor Carla Denyer, Co Shadow Cabinet member for Climate and Ecology and Co-Leader of the Green Party England and Wales, explained:
“Transport is one of our biggest causes of emissions, and an area where the Council can have a real impact, unfortunately it is rather weakly dealt with in the report. For example, public transport is a major key to reducing emissions. WECA controls buses, but Bristol City Council still needs to demonstrate how it is pushing for improvements here to get people out of their cars. There is no mention made of progress installing electric vehicle (EV) charging points – but the city will need many, many more to prepare for a EVs. And walking and cycling is the single most cost-effective way to reduce transport emissions, and can improve public health, wellbeing and the economy – but the report just mentions that “a number of projects” are underway. For years the council has lacked a plan to develop a safe, joined-up cycling network – this must be addressed.”
“It seems the problem here is the Labour administration is unwilling to consider any changes that take space away from private cars, and has ignored proposals to do so from the Citizens’ Assembly, Greens and local communities. While other UK cities are already introducing low traffic neighbourhoods across wide areas, Bristol is still preparing a single pilot scheme in 2024. But it’s not too late to change course – WECA has millions of pounds to spend on transport and if our city develops a decent cycling strategy we could go for the funding to make it happen.”
Greens say there are a number of steps they would take to ramp up Bristol’s progress towards climate targets. They have suggested several ideas including:
Greens also made many recommendations in 2019 for actions that could be started quickly and at relatively low cost – see ‘change starts now’ report.