The City Council declared climate and ecological emergencies in 2019. This is a good start but needs to be backed up by action that recognises the scale of the threat facing us.
The UK is looking set to miss its targets for tackling climate change, and climate emissions in Cambridgeshire are even higher than the national average. Our City and County Councils are recklessly pursuing a model of endless growth. To take just one example of why this cannot continue: our region is running out of water. If the city grows as currently planned we will need major new mechanisms for keeping up with water demand.
The Green Party advocates Doughnut Economics – an approach that aims to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet.
The climate emergency is a thread running through all our policies, and many of the actions listed under the other manifesto headings will help to address it. The following policies are specifically about climate change.
Image: a small child looks out over the River Cam at Baits Bite Lock
Cambridge Green Party is the only party that puts the environment at the heart of all our policies.
High quality green spaces in urban areas are a haven for nature as well as offering huge mental and physical health benefits. Here in Cambridge unsustainable development is driving destruction of our natural habitats within the city and across Green Belt land. As well as destroying nature by paving it over, unsustainable developments increase the burden on our already overstretched water supply. As a result, the rare chalk stream ecology of many of the tributaries of the Cam is threatened, and the health of trees across the area is at risk as the water table falls.
Building a successful economy is impossible without a healthy environment. Right now, we are destroying the natural foundations of our economy faster than they can be regenerated.
Image: Abbey candidate Hannah Charlotte Copley at Coldham's Brook
The homes and other buildings we are constructing now will stand for many years. We need to think about the future. This means making sure buildings use energy and water as efficiently as possible, and designing them to be habitable in the face of our increasingly chaotic climate.
To achieve this we need to adopt much higher standards for efficiency and insist that new buildings comply with them. Many studies have shown that most buildings – even those claiming ‘green’ credentials – perform less well in comfort and energy efficiency than expected. This is due both to poor design and poor workmanship.
The Passivhaus standard defines the building process from design through to inspection. The resulting buildings are comfortable to live and work in and require very little energy for heating or cooling.
Image: a row of houses in Cambridge
Transport in Cambridge is not fit for purpose. We need a rapid shift to greener travel.
Although Cambridge has the highest cycling figures in the UK, we have the potential to do even better. Many cycle paths are mixed use, some are badly maintained. Many roads lack room for bikes between parking and traffic. Big projects like the Chisholm Trail are great, but often late and over budget. Increasing the proportion of journeys made by active transport would benefit everyone, including those less able to cycle or walk, by reducing traffic jams and improving air quality.
Current bus services do not serve Cambridge residents well: there are areas, for example in Abbey, where buses are rare and slow. Ticket prices are too high; it is cheaper to take a family to town by car and pay the high car parking fees than to go on the bus. We need public transport that is easy, cheap and reliable.
We also need disincentives for people driving all the way into Cambridge from outside. A blanket congestion charge would not be appropriate for Cambridge since, in the absence of good public transport infrastructure, such a policy would disproportionately affect the less well-off. If the Park and Ride and local buses worked seamlessly on low congestion roads, travel without a car would be much easier. The rapid shift to electric vehicles will also help in creating zero-pollution transport.
Image: Abbey candidate Naomi Bennett waits at a bus stop
We want to tackle inequality in Cambridge, including the most deprived areas of the City in Abbey. The economic growth envisaged by our Councils mainly benefits developers and those with money to invest. To be truly sustainable, new developments should be based around local need for housing, employment and infrastructure, not a top-down growth target. The provision of ‘affordable housing’ is woefully inadequate, both in terms of what proportion of housing is allocated as ‘affordable’ and the size of the discount compared to market rates. We need a large increase in council owned and managed secure rented property backed up by community ownership cooperatives, housing associations and co-housing projects.
The Covid-19 pandemic has widened pre-existing gaps in our society, with the worst effects being felt by those who are already the least well off. On the other hand, it has also shone a light on the incredible resilience of local groups and organisations to support people in a time of need.
Image: Abbey candidates Matt Howard and Jeremy Caddick speak to a resident on their doorstep