Opening speech by Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration during the Coventry Council Climate Change Debate 18-6-19.
You can see a list of the other speeches here.
Text of the speech
[This comes from Jim O’Boyle’s blog at jimoboyle.wordpress.com]
We know the effects of climate change – we are seeing them all around us every day. Not just on the news and in far-off countries, but here in Coventry. Climate change is here and it’s not going away – it’s up to us all to tackle it and the time to take action is now. As a Council and as a city we must not only act, but be seen to act and encourage – or force – others to act wherever we can.
It’s not going to be easy.
We are talking about changing the habits of people and of industry – and, as in most areas, we are doing it under the shadow of ongoing austerity. For an issue that is so far-reaching and has such dramatic consequences, that is difficult to put it mildly. So we have to support that work in every area of the Council and enlist the help of local industry, businesses and residents.
The climate change agenda should run through everything we do – we will know we have succeeded when we no longer need a climate change team – because we have made the issues part of our thinking.
Now is the perfect time for our Council to take a stand.
We are in the national spotlight with titles such as European City of Sport and UK City of Culture. We are reshaping our city for the future, with new buildings and a new-look city centre. And we are changing our industrial base, as we move from the heavy engineering of the past to today’s new technology. We are a pioneering city, known for our innovation – so let’s be a pioneer in tackling climate change! We know we can’t do it alone – as great a city as we are!
In fact the figures that prove this are staggering.
In 2017 China made more steel in one year than the UK has made since the industrial revolution. Half the world’s coal supply is burned by China each year. The whole of the UK accounts for less than 1% of carbon emissions worldwide. Over 25% of the world’s climate pollution originates in China. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with 2015-2018 making up the top four. China and the US together account for more than 40% of the global total of greenhouse gases.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Climate change is a global issue – but one we can start tackling right here. We proudly say we are ‘globally connected and locally committed’ – and that’s how we must look at climate change. Coventry has always led the way with regards to sustainability and climate change and we want to continue that work to become a green low carbon city. We were one of the first cities to produce a climate change strategy. Back in 2012 we set a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 27.5% by the year 2020 – and we achieved that in 2014.
We had the UK’s first pedestrianised shopping centre and the first ring road. We were one of the first to recover power and heat from waste and to use electric vehicles. We don’t need to start our climate change work from scratch, we just need to develop what we are doing now and build on that.
We are the UK’s Motor City and we can be the UK’s Climate Change City.
We are already at the forefront of developing the clean air technologies of the future. Our two universities are investing in R&D activity, including electric and hybrid powertrain technology, light-weighting, energy storage and sustainable building technologies. We are home to the headquarters of National Grid, FirstUtility, E.ON UK, Co-operative Energy, Calor Gas, Phillips 66 and Severn Trent.
And we are an important location for the design, manufacture and maintenance of turbine and power generation technology, with local names GE Power Conversion, Siemens and Baxi. The global HQ and R&D operations for Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover and the London Electric Vehicle Company are also here, with each company investing in electric and hybrid powertrain systems.
We are making significant improvements at the railway station – supporting and encouraging the use of public transport. We are working with our neighbours too – so transport planning is joined up.
Our year as City of Culture will shine a spotlight on the city and we need to grasp the opportunity to show the way we are pioneering new technology as a way to meet our climate change challenge.
Now it’s time to take the next step.
The current Climate Change Strategy for Coventry ends in 2020. This gives us an opportunity to develop a new Strategy in partnership with others across the city – and look to set a date for Coventry to become net carbon zero. The national target for that is 2050, but we can, and will, beat that deadline. Our new strategy will look at all areas, including the key sectors of Transport, Industry and Buildings.
Climate change isn’t just about polar bears – as important as they are – it’s about business, it’s about jobs for local people and it’s about how we ensure the city continues to be successful.
In Transport we have already launched the Go Electric Taxi scheme, to encourage cab drivers to move to electric vehicles and we have been chosen by the government to champion this scheme. We are promoting electric vehicle use and installing chargers across the city. And we are working with National Express to put 10 fully electric buses on major routes that have been identified as air quality hotspots. We are now looking for funding to deliver ‘on the move charging’ and to install EV charging hubs and E-car clubs in car parks and other suitable locations throughout the city.
Coventry and Warwickshire are also at the heart of autonomous vehicle testing and we are trialling recyclable materials in road surfacing. We are designing a transport system of the future through our Very Light Rail project, with the first vehicles ready for testing in the coming months. In industry, we are working with the LEP and WMG to create the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre that will revolutionise car production.
And our small team is working with SMEs to help them make energy efficiency improvements. These usually lead to cash saving too – so climate change can be good for business.
To ensure growth and make sure we have the right infrastructure and power supply, the LEP is currently in the early stages of developing an Energy Innovation Zone, which will co-ordinate power supply needs and secure future funding.
As a Council we are aiming to lead by example – reducing our buildings from 27 to just nine. Many of those old buildings were highly inefficient in their use of energy. We have introduced pool cars – including electric ones – and bikes. And we have upgraded gas and electric meters so we can monitor and reduce our power usage.
In buildings, our Affordable Warmth Team is helping residents make their homes energy efficient and our Planning Team is making sure new builds of all shapes and sizes are carbon-friendly and as green as possible.
Our Council buildings, the Cathedral and the Herbert are heated through Heatline – our waste to energy scheme. And our new waterpark The Wave, will join that network. Even our street lights are helping our climate change work, with new changes cutting carbon use by 4,000 tonnes and leading to a 38% reduction in energy. And, of course, we are creating more green spaces in the city centre, reducing the size of roads and widening pavements, increasing the size of footpaths and enforcing a 20mph speed limit.
Lord Mayor, climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment – nationally, internationally and in our city. Coventry may not see catastrophic flooding, droughts or famine in the near future, but it will not be exempt from the effects of global warming. We have a duty to our residents – and to those in other countries – to take action and reduce our city’s carbon footprint. Working to become carbon zero will also improve our health through better air quality; less noise and light pollution; more active travel; and healthier diets.
And it will improve the health of our industry as we attract new firms to our city and become a world-leader in the technologies of tomorrow. It is the right thing to do but it will also bring vast new opportunities.
As a world leader in industry and innovation, Coventry can pioneer change, inspire others and influence global issues.
And as a Council, we can – and must – work with businesses, residents and organisations across the city to show the threat of climate change and to bring in changes that will make our city a better place for those who live here today and those to come.