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“We can’t afford to wait any longer” – Greens respond to Council’s Climate Emergency report

With Extinction Rebellion actions hitting headlines in cities across the UK, Green Party councillors in Bristol last night (17/07/19) called on the Labour Mayor and council to show greater urgency in tackling climate change. Green councillors were replying to the Mayor’s Climate Emergency report, produced as the response to a Green motion passed in November 2018 which declared a climate emergency and set a target for Bristol to become carbon neutral by 2030.

As councillors debated the Mayor’s report, the council chamber was packed with climate activists who had also organised a large demonstration on College Green outside. Carla Denyer, the Green councillor who proposed the Climate Emergency motion in November 2018 (the first of its kind in Europe) previously spoke at Extinction Rebellion events in Bristol on Monday and Tuesday.

Responding to the climate emergency report, she said: “This is a good first step, but it really doesn’t reflect the urgency of an emergency – there’s little change from business as usual”

“There are some things to like about the report – for example adopting Green ideas like an annual Carbon budget for the Council, and fitting out council housing with solar panels. And it’s great news that our council is now ahead of schedule in cutting its own emissions – but as this represents just 1% of the city’s total we have to look at ways we can influence emissions across the city. 

“Unfortunately instead of an emergency response this feels in some ways like a ‘plan for a plan’. For example we heard a lot about work that the current and previous administrations have already done, and about boards and committees being set up, but we didn’t hear much about simple, deliverable actions that the council is actually going to carry out to reduce Bristol’s carbon emissions. Surely the point of an emergency is that we have to act fast, and do everything in our power now.

“There’s work we already know that we’re going to need to get done – e.g. massive improvements to our transport infrastructure to prioritise walking, provide safe segregated cycle routes and create more car-free areas of the city – that have already been agreed cross-party. We can’t afford to wait any longer – let’s get started on this now!”

Greens also challenged Bristol’s Labour Mayor over his own approach to climate change, calling on him to rethink his position on the expansion of Bristol Airport. Despite declaring a climate emergency Marvin Rees remains a supporter of the expansion of this development, which will support an additional 23,600 flights per year.

Councillor Steve Clarke said:

“There’s an enormous ‘elephant in the room’ in this report... airport expansion is not dealt with at all. I know we don’t have direct control over it but Bristol is still a major stakeholder. How can it be credible that our Mayor is saying there is a climate emergency and yet still enthusiastically support plans for thousands of extra flights?

“To get an idea of the scale of the problem, the whole of Bristol’s direct carbon emissions are 1.6m tonnes a year; the airport expansion alone will add at least 1/2m tonnes per year to that. That’s almost a tonne of carbon for every person in Bristol. If we accept that we need to take urgent action to reduce our carbon emissions – which is what the Mayor and every councillor here voted for in November – then we also have to accept that it’s crazy to support moving in the opposite direction. The airport is big enough already.”

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