Press release: Cambridge Green Party warns City Council that its response to IPCC climate report leaves Cambridge dangerously exposed

15 August 2021

Cambridge Green Party is concerned that action on climate change proposed by the City Council fails to recognise the urgency that has been highlighted by the release of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week.

In its response to this report, Cambridge City Council point to the energy-saving and low carbon initiatives that are currently being implemented. These are essential, but are not a magic bullet for the climate emergency. In its 2021-2026 Climate Strategy, the Council points out that it controls only 1.1% of city carbon emissions, and changing our individual behaviour is likely to account for no more than 9%.

Green Party Cllr Hannah Copley says “We should be directing our efforts urgently towards full decarbonisation of our economy - the rate of change is nowhere near what is required. We need to negotiate now with national government for funding to retrofit and improve housing, and to create new jobs as part of a Green New Deal. Both locally and worldwide, those who are facing the worst impacts of climate change are those who are least responsible for it. We as a nation hold responsibility for that, and we need fair and equitable policies. Without support, many people will not be able to undertake the individual action proposed. We need immediate action to address the challenges such as extreme heat and flooding that our region faces: every new building or piece of infrastructure should be considered in the context of these risks.

Cllr Hannah Copley recently tabled a motion for the City Council to add their voice to the call for the establishment of a joint National Climate Change Partnership Task Force, which was passed unanimously. A national Task Force would be able to develop mechanisms for robust and long-term funding to be provided to local councils so they are able to tackle climate change.

The IPCC report highlights that we are already experiencing dramatic changes caused by climate change, including rising temperatures, extreme heatwaves, violent storms, and periods of drought. Within the UK, Cambridgeshire is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Cambridge holds the record for highest ever recorded temperature from the whole UK, this in a region that is ‘semi-arid’ already. Cambridgeshire is one of the UK counties most at risk from flooding, which causes havoc for people’s homes and lives.

Emissions from buildings, transport and agriculture are failing to fall at anywhere near the required rate in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Although emissions in Cambridge City fell between 2005 and 2019, as in most UK local authorities, the City Council came in at number 107 on the list – a poor showing, given the expertise in the city. Housing and other developments are expanding at a rate not seen before in the Cambridge area, with 15 major developments and thousands of new homes either scheduled or planned. This, combined with a transport policy that risks incentivising yet more development, will inevitably accelerate the threat from climate change.

Green leadership is vital if we are to address climate change and ensure a sustainable future for the city. This means being far more ambitious with policies that:

  1. Reduce carbon emissions though a walking, cycle and public transport infrastructure that reduces car use: We need major investments in active transport with the goal of creating a fully interconnected, properly segregated cycle network, and a bus system that is the cheapest and most enjoyable way to travel around Cambridge.
  2. Reduce risk of flooding through more drainage land and less green field development: we need to protect open water, flood-plains and water run off.
  3. Increase tree planting, protect biodiversity and prioritise the environment: in particular we need to ensure that ALL planning applications take eco-priorities seriously.
  4. Champion energy transition from fossil fuels to cheap and efficient renewable technology: we urgently need to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and infrastructure for electric vehicles.
  5. Keep the expansion of the city to manageable levels to protect our green belt and green spaces. We must oppose unchecked building, housing and transport expansion that will undermine our ability to protect our remaining nature.
  6. Protect the water supply: We must ensure water resources are not overused or polluted.
  7. Develop democratic mechanisms to give more people more voice in policy making: we need to rethink decision making, and move to a more participatory democracy, including citizen’s assemblies, to ensure government funding is in place for the green transition needed.

Above all, we must ensure any changes made are fair: climate change policies must not increase inequality, both within the UK and at a global level. As pointed out in the IPCC report, climate change spells much greater disaster for the many lower income countries and small island states that have contributed the least to carbon emissions. The Green Party, locally, nationally and internationally, believes that a global carbon tax is the most powerful way of rapidly eliminating fossil fuels from our economies. To avoid a negative impact on those on lower incomes such a tax should be combined with significant investment in public transport and home insulation, as well as a universal basic income. Cambridge citizens wanting to make the biggest impact on climate change should actively lobby the government and decision makers and make their voices heard between now and COP 26 in November.

The Cambridge Green Party prioritises and champions these policies now, with the technology and the skills we have now. It can and it must be NOW.

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