Green Councillors accused the Mayor of substituting empty words for climate action this evening (10 Sep. 19), at a Full Council meeting where Labour proposed a ‘Green New Deal’ motion but rejected a Green amendment to add practical policy commitments to it.
Labour’s ‘Green New Deal’ motion was criticised by opposition councillors during the meeting for celebrating Labour’s work and plans so far but not committing to new policies that could be brought forwards to create a ‘real’ Green New Deal for Bristol, in line with the many policies suggested by the ‘Green New Deal Group’ experts who launched the idea. The original motion resolved to restate the climate emergency, back the Mayor’s ‘One City Plan’ and for council party group leaders to write letters to their party leaders for support. Labour party members in the public gallery also called for concrete actions in the Public Forum section of the meeting.
The Greens proposed an amendment that added requests for the Council administration to commit to implement policies proposed by the Green New Deal Group and those suggested by Friends of the Earth, such as:
- Ensure every decision made by the Council is compatible with the Climate Emergency and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
- Begin work on a Congestion Charge or Workplace Parking Levy to raise funds and support cleaner, cheaper public transport
- Halt major roadbuilding, which contributes to more traffic and carbon emissions – prioritise infrastructure that will improve quality of life and make it easier for people to get out of their cars
- Write stronger Local Plan policies to make all new developments on private and Council land ‘climate emergency-proof’
- Use the Council’s influence on the multi-billion pound Avon Pension Fund to fully divest out of fossil fuels and into renewables and low-carbon housebuilding
- Oppose Bristol Airport expansion
However the amendment was voted down by Labour and Conservative Councillors and the original motion passed. Green councillor Carla Denyer proposed the amendment, and has also co-proposed a motion on the Green New Deal to the Green Party Autumn Conference. She said:
“We tried to work with Labour on their motion because the Green New Deal is so important – it has the potential to be a powerful project that transforms the UK, tackling environmental and social injustice and building the kind of Green future we need, not the climate crisis we’re heading towards. Signing up to the Green New Deal means committing to actually carry out Green New Deal policies, not just writing to people to ask them to support it. So I proposed an amendment to Labour’s motion which added practical, achievable actions from the UK Green New Deal group and Friends of the Earth, that the council could take on now, as well as calling for support for the more complicated things like changing the economy.”
Group leader Eleanor Combley said:
“When we declared a Climate Emergency last year I had high hopes that the Mayor got the message: in this environmental crisis, Bristol needs action, not words, and needs it now, not in the distant future. Unfortunately once again tonight the Mayor and Bristol Labour showed that they are happy to talk the talk on climate change, while voting down real actions proposed by the Greens to deal with it. A Green New Deal is not an empty slogan to put on leaflets – it is a plan to tackle the climate crisis that features real policies like divesting from fossil fuels, or using funds from a workplace parking levy to fund public transport improvements - work we could get started on right away. Instead, in this motion, the Labour administration hide behind the things they can’t do because central government hasn’t yet given us the funding or the powers.
“Let’s be clear – we have just 11 years to act. Central Government are woefully adrift from their own targets, and therefore I am happy to join calls for the powers and the funding we need and ‘reiterate’ the climate emergency as suggested by the motion. But there are actions this council can take now, and this motion’s ‘wait for government’ approach is just not good enough.”
Among other changes, the Green Group’s amendment to Labour’s motion added a section into the Motion under ‘Full Council resolves’ that called on the administration to “begina Green New Deal for Bristol by committing to actions, as proposed by the Green New Deal group and Friends of the Earth, that are currently within its powers, including:
- Ensure that every decision made by the Council is commensurate with the Climate Emergency and UN SDGs by contributing to reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and inequality;
- Use its influence on the multi-billion pound Avon Pension Fund to fully divest out of fossil fuels and into socially and environmentally beneficial investments such as renewable energy generation and low-carbon housebuilding, over the next five years;
- Begin work on a Congestion Charge or Workplace Parking Levy to raise funds and support cleaner, cheaper public transport;
- Oppose plans for new road capacity which inevitably leads to more traffic and carbon emissions;
- Build dozens of miles of cycling freeways and quietways across Bristol – by funding the cycling and pedestrian strategies that will improve quality of life and make it easier for people to get out of their cars;
- Stronger Local Plan policies and Council property management policies to ensure all new residential and commercial developments on private and Council land are ‘climate emergency-proof’;
- Work with WECA and North Somerset Council to prioritise the skills training and improve local supply chains to accelerate and enable the retrofitting for existing homes and buildings to become carbon neutral.”