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Nearly 1 year after Climate Emergency declared, progress is too slow, say Greens

The Green Councillor who launched Bristol’s ‘Climate Emergency’ motion in November 2018 has called on councillors from all parties to join her in pressing the administration for urgent action.

Responding to an update presented to a cross-party scrutiny committee almost a year after her motion passed, Councillor Carla Denyer expressed frustration with the slow progress the Council is making. Her statement to the committee supported some of the decisions such as the adoption of Greens’ suggestion of a ‘carbon budget’ and the setting up of expert advisory panels. However she said the progress update was “not good enough” given the short time left for humanity to prevent climate collapse, saying “Almost a year after declaring an emergency, I would expect to see a lot more in the pipeline than the above plus plans to update council web pages, develop a comms strategy and provide some training.”

Councillor Denyer’s statement listed actions the Council could take immediately at no cost, such as opposing Bristol Airport expansion, and called on committee members to “call for real action from the administration as a matter of urgency”, beginning with the actions already approved by all political parties via a Cross-Party Working Group set up late last year.

She ended with a stark reminder: “You all voted to declare a climate emergency – this is what it means.”

Speaking outside the meeting, Councillor Denyer said:

“The update shows just how little progress we’ve made since declaring a Climate Emergency – there’s been lots of setting up of committees and boards, but much less work on the carbon reduction itself. Marvin Rees has been happy to take credit for approving the Climate Emergency but has so far refused to take obvious steps like opposing Bristol Airport expansion or backing divestment from fossil fuels.

“Since passing the Climate Emergency motion we’ve used up one of the 12 years the IPCC report said we had left to take major action. Let’s not waste any more time when there are projects we know we need to get started on which already have cross-party support. Let’s get started on them now.”

Statement by Cllr Carla Denyer Item 12: Update on the Mayors Climate Emergency Action Plan

As I’m sure you all remember, I moved the Climate Emergency motion at Full Council last November. All parties voted for it, including the Mayor. The motion called on the Mayor to pledge to make Bristol carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account emissions from production and consumption.

Some of what has happened since has been encouraging. In the administration’s Climate Emergency report, it was proposed to take on one of the Green suggestions: a carbon neutral budget. And expert support will be provided through the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change feeding into the One City Environmental Sustainability Board.

However it is almost a year since we declared a climate emergency, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told us last year that we had only 12 years to take bold action to prevent a catastrophe - more recent scientific estimates say even less. So I must be frank about this progress update on how the Mayor is tackling this emergency – it’s not good enough. Almost a year after declaring an emergency, I would expect to see a lot more in the pipeline than the above plus plans to update council web pages, develop a comms strategy and provide some training.

We already know there are things we can get started with right away in Bristol without having to wait for government support. Some of them cost nothing – using our influence to oppose the airport expansion, or support divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels. Some of them are already in progress, like our housing insulation programme, but will need to be radically stepped up to meet our 2030 target. And many of them have cross-party support thanks to the work of the 2030 Cross-Party Working Group. However very few of them can be done overnight, so if we are going to respond to this emergency, we have to get started on them as soon as possible.

So I ask all of you, as members of this Scrutiny Committee, to call for real action from the administration as a matter of urgency, starting with the actions already agreed by the Cross Party Working Group. You all voted to declare a climate emergency – this is what it means.

Thank you.

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