Tag: climate emergency

Climate change, reducing speed, shopping centres and fireworks on Thursday’s Shropshire Council

Back in May, Shropshire Council declared a climate emergency. Officers have been working to draft council policies to make tackling the emergency a priority. Now, climate is set to be one of the main topics on the full council meeting on Thursday 19 December, with a petition and a council paper. A Lib Dem and Green proposal to double the tree cover in Shropshire is also on the agenda. There will be a discussion about the long awaited replacement of streetlights with LED lights. 20mph limits outside schools and on resident streets will also be discussed. Among other items, the Lib Dems have tabled a motion on better organised and quieter fireworks to protect animals and children. The meeting will finish with a discussion of the council’s Shrewsbury shopping centres and purchase of a property in Oswestry. This debate will be held behind closed doors.

Shropshire Council sets out its climate strategy as COP25 looks like becoming COPOUT 25

In May, Shropshire Council declared a climate emergency, though the council’s leader refused to commit to any urgency. Cabinet members, councillors and council staff have shown a greater commitment to tackling the biggest issue of our age and the biggest issue for generations to come. The newly published route map to a Zero Carbon Shropshire only really deals with a Zero Carbon Council (Agenda 6). And it says an ambition of net zero council by 2030 may not be met. The Shropshire Climate Action Partnership agreed in May has still not been set up. After six months, I would have expected more. Meanwhile, in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, the world’s annual climate summit COP25 looks like it is going nowhere. (Update: It did prove to be COPOUT25.) We must convert the hot air talked about acting on climate change into action on reducing emissions. We are stewards of Shropshire. Stewards of our Earth. We must do more. And do it faster.

How do we double tree cover to slow climate change, boost wildlife and improve public health – a Marches National Forest?

Friends of the Earth has organised a lobby of councillors across the country asking them to support doubling of tree cover. I support that objective. We must plant trees to create a carbon reservoir to slow climate change, boost wildlife and improve public health. But should it be a wave of small woodland schemes or a huge project like a Marches National Forest? We must get this right. That means selecting the right species of trees, ensuring we have enough skilled arboriculturists to manage woodland, planning for public access and ensuring a market for the harvested timber. Timber is a long term crop, so we must ensure that tenants and landowners have the right incentives and support. Trees must be planted in biodiversity poor areas, not those rich in wildlife or already storing carbon.

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments. It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency.

In May, Shropshire Council agreed to follow the lead of councils around the country and declare a climate emergency. But the council leader would not allow councillors to set a deadline for the council or the county becoming carbon neutral. The result was a declaration of a climate emergency without any sense of emergency. A petition from Shewsbury Friends of the Earth published on the council website today calls on the council to achieve net carbon zero emissions from the council’s activities by 2030. It is vital that the council achieves carbon neutrality by 2030. That will contribute towards the future of the planet. It will also to show civic leadership towards employers and businesses across the county and encourage them to put future carbon neutrality at the core of their business plans. I urge everyone to sign this petition. If it gains 1,000 signatures in the next few weeks, it will be debated in the council chamber on 12 December.

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