Seconding speech by Councillor Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services during the Coventry Council Climate Change Debate 18-6-19.
You can see a list of the other speeches here.
Text of her speech
It was disappointing to see that there’s only been one session on climate change in the Commons in recent times, which is so very disappointing when you think of the impact on the environment and wildlife.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has told us that we have 12 years to restrict global warming to 1.5°.
The Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products—has shown that the UK will miss the fourth and fifth carbon budget targets, which are binding on us under law and are part of our agreements under the conference of the parties process.
Those carbon budgets take us to 2032.
One of the five sectors of most concern was construction. What has happened in housing? When the Government came in in 2010, they scrapped the code for sustainable homes—something that would have kept us on track to meet our carbon budgets for housing.
We need to build low-carbon modular housing, and we need to take control of that process and not listen to the siren voices of the volume housing developers.
The Norwegians are talking about phasing out petrol and diesel by 2025, just six years from now. We are talking about a target of 2040, and we cannot even give a clear answer on whether we are going to ban hybrids
On food and drink, the Germans have a plan for resource efficiency. We have no such plan;
On clothing and textiles, the Government need to look at the Environmental Audit Committee’s report. That report arose from a sustainable fashion inquiry, and found so much that could be done within the UK fashion industry and its main production facilities, which are abroad, to make fashion more sustainable.
In electronics and appliances, we are not doing enough to drive down electricity use. There is no catching up here; there are no second chances. The Government have said that we will be net carbon zero by 2050, but if we do not do the right thing over the 12 or 13 years to 2032, we will not be able to catch up in the 18 years between 2032 and 2050.
Lastly, we are on track in energy production because coal-fired power stations are being scrapped. The industry itself has seen the future, and has already decommissioned or moved into biomass and other forms of energy production.
We need to look at alternatives, including domestic solar, onshore and offshore wind, hydrogen, hydro, and obviously tidal lagoons, If we do not do that, we will again be behind, and will not meet the legally binding targets that we must meet as a nation. The Government must do better.
The tragedy is that in recent years, the global leadership role that the UK played on the international stage has been undermined by the systematic dismantling of climate policy at home.
We have heard some of this already, but since 2010, Ministers have scrapped zero carbon homes; sold off the Green Investment Bank; made it almost impossible to build onshore wind farms; cut off support for solar power; made no progress on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; gone all out for fracking, which is quite extraordinary given that that is a whole new fossil fuel industry; and in the area of energy efficiency, which is all too often a poor cousin in these debates, we are woefully behind on some targets—for example, retrofitting some of our most energy-inefficient homes. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, we could be over 50 years late in getting that target sorted.
The impact of those failures is incredibly real, and we have heard from the Committee on Climate Change that once again, the UK is way off meeting its fourth and fifth carbon budgets. “With each delay,” it says,
“we stray further from the cost-effective path to the 2050 target.”
Beyond that, the sad truth is that even if all those policies were still active, it would not be enough. The problem is that our economy is built on the assumption that precious minerals, fresh air, clean water and rare species can magically regenerate themselves in an instant, and that somehow the Earth will expand to meet our ever-expanding use of resources.
The reality is that we have stretched the planet beyond its limits and, without a bold reimagining of how our economy works, it will simply not be able to spring back into shape. The UN 1.5° report made clear that we need to cut emissions to net zero by the middle of this century, but the global economy is set to nearly triple in size during that same period. That makes the job of decarbonisation massively greater.
Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist, told world leaders at COP24 in December that the house is falling down and all you do is talk about Brexit. She also said, “if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.”
She was right.
Of course, we need massive investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency and a new, clean public transport system, but we also need to think far more boldly about the way we integrate concerns about our natural world in the way we run our economy. Crucially, we need to limit the resources that we all use. Those in the global north who can radically reduce how much they consume and throw away, must do so.
We must find new and innovative ways to recycle and reuse materials; there is much talk of dematerialisation and decoupling from energy and consumption, but the truth is that there is no example anywhere in the world of absolute decoupling in anything like the timeframes that we will need if we are serious about getting off the collision course that we are currently on with the climate crisis. We have a huge job of work in front of us.
In Coventry, we have the first tranche of a £1.5m upgrade in National Express buses meeting Euro 6 requirement, cleaner buses in a faster way.
Second tranche, Stagecoach, Diamond and Johnson’s by 2021, every bus operating will be Euro 6 or better.
New Infrastructure at the bus depot will have solar panels and battery storage. Fleet stored and charged at the depot, surplus going back into the grid.
Coventry is at the very forefront on charge units, only 3 authorities bid for it, we’re leading on rolling charge points out in our City. At a local level, residents will be able to book a slot on an App to charge their vehicles in their street, we will watch as demand grows.
New housing developments will have charge points going in.
Air quality action plan, where the traffic signals are, kit will be in place, so the control centre will be in control, it’ll have the technology in place, so that CO2, carbon monoxide levels will be fed back to the control team, who will be able to manage traffic build up effectively.
In conclusion some of you may have seen media interest in road resurfacing in our City, in particular where plastic and tyre crumb is mixed with the aggregate to add to its resilience and durability. There’s a great deal of interest in a road in Cheylesmore, Montalt Rd, where the aggregate used is equivalent to using 75 tyres, that’s 75 tyres less going to landfill.
Climate change is at the forefront of everything we do, and will do in the future, we only have one planet, we should be mindful of that every time we make a decision.